NDSU lone Southland loss is against BearkatsFARGO — The familiarity between North Dakota State and the Southland Conference was formed as a matter of convenience. Both needed games.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.
FARGO — The familiarity between North Dakota State and the Southland Conference was formed as a matter of convenience. Both needed games.
The Bison began the schedule portion of their Division I transition in 2004. Because they didn’t have a conference and because they were so new to the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, teams weren’t exactly lining up to travel to Fargo.
On the same token, the Southland was down to six teams, meaning they had five conference games and had to go elsewhere for six nonconference games.
The connection treated the Bison well. They’re 7-1 against the Southland heading into Saturday’s FCS national title game against Sam Houston State. Only the Bearkats broke through against the Bison, winning 48-45 on a last-second field goal in 2009.
NDSU provided the thrill at home two years earlier, winning 41-38 on a last-second touchdown pass.
“We have a history together and we both have scored a lot of points,” said NDSU running back D.J. McNorton. “And now we have two top defenses going against each other, and we’ll see how that plays out.”
The Bearkats are the only Southland team to seriously damage the Bison.
NDSU gave up an average of 13.2 points in the six Southland games that didn’t include Sam Houston State. Defense held Stephen F. Austin (Texas) in check in 28-19 and 17-9 wins. The Bison held Nicholls State’s option game to minimal yardage in 26-13 and 24-14 victories.
The biggest surprise was probably a 35-7 wipeout at Northwestern State (La.) in the second game of the 2005 season when the Demons were coming off an 8-4 season and a Southland title. It was also memorable in another way.
“We had to get a police escort out of the parking lot, because they hadn’t lost there in awhile,” said former Bison offensive lineman Nate Safe.
Safe said the test for NDSU in playing Southland teams on the road was the heat and humidity. Several Bison players were noticeably spent after a 2004 win at Nicholls, located in Thibodaux, La.
“I think that was for the Bison as a whole the first big-time win down south in the heat,” said former offensive lineman Jerrod Wagner. “They always had somewhat of an advantage, because they practiced in the heat and humidity all the time. This weekend, I don’t think that will be a factor because it’s in January.”
NDSU has since joined the Missouri Valley Football Conference, which plays eight league games. It leaves the Bison with just three nonconference games, and the need to find an opponent from the Southland is not what it once was.
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.